How to GROW lagging CHEST (PEC) muscles

How to GROW lagging CHEST (PEC) muscles?

Good pecs are very much the result of good genetics. You either have it or you don’t.

Well, I for one was not about to accept that. My logic goes, that any muscle given the right stimulation WILL GROW. So I was out on a quest to find the “right stimulation”.prof IMG_6810

My pecs was not the worse I have seen but in comparison to my shoulders, arms and abs it was lagging badly. And it was not if I was not pounding them with presses, fly’s and the like.

dumbell pressesI spoke to many people and there was many different suggestions…some strange ones.

I wanted pecs that is not just visible at the bottom but have a definite shape starting right at the top against the shoulder muscle moving down the middle and with a good bottom definition go all the way round back to the armpits again.

Naturally my curiosity just kick started my research instinct again. I needed to get my pecs to respond and I need to find a way to do it.

Some guys even go for pec implants. A lot try the anabolic steroid route. I however kept my firm believe that wisdom needs to be applied to get results…as with all things. I knew muscle growth has no quick solutions.

After a lot of nose in the book stuff (ok, nose in the internet to be more correct), I started to formulate my approach. When I had it well planned, I decided to apply my new ideas. At this point my whole upper body was well-developed except my pecs. My diet and supplements regime was well sorted for growth. So I just needed to apply the correct training solution for pec growth.

After a 6 month period of my new approach, I could see some significant growth. There was a very good roundness to the whole pec muscle starting against the shoulder muscle and right down to the bottom pec area was started to lift out of my chest with decent form.

I knew I got it nailed down and that it would now simply be a matter of time to get them bigger and bigger…

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So to all your genetic gifted lads…pecs is NOT just your domain…us “non-gifted” guys can, and will show you a thing or two. You might be as gifted as you like, but with wisdom we will kick your butt…be sure of it.

Ok, too much testosterone talk – lol! Let me get down to business as to what I did.

Pecs are a difficult muscle to get to respond.

Two main things must be done to get them to respond.

Number ONE:

You are NOT going to get it to grow with fly’s, dumbbell presses and cable machines, no matter how hard you train.

There is one way and one way only. HEAVY BENCH PRESSES with a barbel and spotter.

You must get a person to help you spot because you must go HEAVY. Four sets of eight (3 times per chest training session) and you MUST fail on that 6-8th rep of each set…I mean complete failure…don’t be a sissy…it MUST hurt!

You must go very low – get a FULL range of motion.

Wide grip on the barbel to transfer focus to the pecs and not the triceps.


During a pec session you must do at least 3 x 4 sets of 6-8 reps to failure.

Don’t play around with fancy stuff, do each set with the heaviest weight you can muster to get failure at 6-8th rep.

Later on, after you are happy with the size of your pecs can you start introducing fly’s, cables and other machine pec excercises, but initially stick to the basic movements to induce growth.

Number TWO:

No matter how hard you bench, it is still not going to stimulate the whole pecs especially the top part to give fullness to the pec muscle. incline becnhThe top part of the pec muscle is where most guys lack development and that is why the pec looks so flat and weak even if the bottom part is developed fairly decently.

The top part will respond by the same point number one, but instead of a flat bench you must use an incline bench.

In fact I do ALL my pec exercises with an incline bench. The incline angle focus on the top part of the pec, but the whole pec actually get a better stimulus from incline presses than flat bench.

I strongly suggest that you focus on doing pecs exercises with incline benches. You can revert to flat bench not more than once every three weeks. I just stick to the inclines.


To recap: You MUST get a spotter and you MUST lift to failure for each set at the 6-8th rep.

Stick to incline benches. No less than 3 x 4 sets of 6-8 reps during a session…and it MUST PAIN!

That muscle MUST be very sore the next day.


Keep training smart and grow.

Gert Louw


For those wanting more opinions, here is an article by Gunter Schlierkamp on lagging chest muscles:

The upper chest is an area that many lifters tend to ignore in their quest for a bigger, thicker set of pecs. The flat bench, admittedly, is incredibly effective at bringing up your overall chest mass because you can handle more weight. But if you’re looking for a complete, polished look, then dedicated upper pectoral work has to be a part of your program.

Gunter Schlierkamp is a big proponent of balanced pec training. While he will also admit that flat benching is crucial for overall chest development, he says that the only way to bring this area up is to attack it with the same ferocity as your other bodyparts. Here are his top six tips for blowing up that upper shelf of your torso.

1. Always Start With Inclines

“If your upper pecs are really lagging, the best way to bring them out is to always start with incline moves,” he says. You can do this with a barbell, dumbbells or a Smith machine. Starting with incline moves will ensure that these underused fibers are fresh, allowing you move the most weight possible to trigger growth. From there you can move on to flat and decline moves, where you’re likely naturally stronger.

2. Try Power Pressing

Think about this as you would the deadlift. With the deadlift, you work without the benefit of elasticity or momentum, pulling the bar from a complete rest on the floor. This builds strength and power quickly through the positive portion of the movement. Power presses are the same idea.

“Using a Smith machine or power rack, set the safeties to a point that only allows for a partial range of motion,” he says. “As you come down, let the bar settle completely before pressing hard back to the top of the movement.”

As you get stronger through each range of motion, lower the safety pins.

 3. Use Dumbbells

“Using dumbbells will give you a completely different kind of tension and range of motion than a barbell,” says Gunter. “Make sure that you don’t get locked into using the barbell on inclines all the time, or any of your angles for that matter.”

4. Tweak Your Flyes

Incline dumbbell flyes are a great way to not only add mass to your upper chest but to etch in freaky detail. Gunter does a variation where his palms remain pronated throughout the movement. This version involves the front delts a bit more but, according to Gunter, ” “Facing the palm forward, it gives you even better tension in your upper chest and it stretches the upper pecs.”

5. Stay High on the Pec Deck

The pec deck – and similar flye machines – allow you to really bombard your inner chest and get a great stretch on your entire pectoral complex. But, Gunter says, keeping your elbows high and parallel to the floor will allow you to bring the upper pecs into play as well.

6. Stretch for Size

It’s not just lip service: stretching after your workout will absolutely assist with muscle growth and recovery. Gunter says that this is especially critical after a grueling chest day. Giving your upper pecs a good stretch, particularly if they’ve been undertrained, will help to create an environment for much-needed growth.

For more on Gunter Schlierkamp, visit him at


21 thoughts on “How to GROW lagging CHEST (PEC) muscles

    1. Keeping the muscle confused is a BIG part of stimulating growth. So in that context, yes. But, remember, to push the same weights with an incline press with dumbells as with benching mean you must have a very good spotter. Injury risk is high. Also, to protect your back you might want the spotter to hand the weights to you when already in the lying position.

  1. Did you switch between barbell and dumbbell in these 6 months of incline ? Had me confused a little bit in this article

    1. Due to the high risk for injury with dumbbell presses I mostly stick to bench pressing. But every few weeks me and training partner did switch to dumbbell incline presses.
      Benching with heavy dumbbells (50kg + in each hand) is a recipe for disaster if you and your training partner are not VERY focussed at what you are doing.

    1. If pecs are lagging, then yes I do suggest twice a week pec training as far apart as possible to allow full recovery before next pec session.
      But now my pec size is sufficient so I train them only hard once a week.
      The above is actually applicable to any lagging muscle group.
      Wish you much success.

      1. Can you do this on both bulking and cutting phase ? I believe you mentioned no failure when cutting . As well you cut how do you determine how much weight you should lose ?

      2. The key aspects for the cutting phase is: lower weights with anything 20 – 40% and increase rep range to between 12 – 20 per set and also perform regular supersets in the workout. Key here is that the muscle must not reach absolute failure because this is time for tendon and joint healing and strengthening

    1. The smith machine is a GREAT machine when you do not have a training partner. But the moment you get a training partner, rather start using the normal bench machine. I’ve trained for years on the smith machine and it is a great tool. Wish u success. G.

  2. hi Gert..
    can you just help me how can i fill my outer upper chest(upper chest and front deltoids)
    i have been doing incline presses and have good inner upper pecs but my outer upper chest sucks which gives me the feeling of droopy chest..
    any kind of help would be life saver..

    1. Hey Kara – if I just look at muscle involved with excercises than you need to concentrate on the following to help you out the outer upper chest:
      incline dumbell flyes
      incline and flat bench cable flyes
      shrugs (do not underestimate shrugs – they heavily involve the complete shoulder and whole pec muscle.)
      Hope this helps bud!

    1. noah…good to hear from u over this festive easter weekend! hope u and family have a blessed time celebrating Christ’s sacrifice for us! Obliques…man i know mine is a bit over developed…i think it is due to the way i lift, i do all lifting by first contracting my core and then lift from there. G

      1. Gert, A blessed Easter to you and your family as well. So, paying attention to contracting your core during all lifts. I thought you were going to tell me side crunches, and twisting crunches, etc. I have been scouring youtube for workouts that target obliques. I would love to see my obliques pop like that. Wondered if you did anything special to hit them. Any way man, take care.

  3. I just want to be clear – you’d end up with a total of 12 sets on bench, right? (as I read it you are saying 4 sets repeated 3x). I’m so glad to hear you found success with inclines. I’ve been toying with the idea of just doing inclines for a while. Thanks again!

    1. Andrew, yip that’s right – 12 sets on the bench in total (and 16 if u are up to it).
      Yeah man, guys are spending waaay to much time with fly’s and stuff and should first get the muscle to acceptable size before they start playing with finer details. Wish u success bud. Gert

  4. Gert, do you really mean four sets of the same exercise repeated three times? My pecs have always been my weakest bodypart so I am interested in giving this a try but I want to get it right. So, do four sets of bench 6-8 reps with 90 to 120 seconds rest between each set. How much rest time after completing the first and second rounds? Thanks and you’re looking great man.

    1. Andrew – You would typically not work chest alone on a day, so let’s say you do chest and triceps for example. Then you would do 4 (or min 3) chest excercises and 4 tricep (or min 3) excercises. Typically what you then do is one chest excercise (4 sets of 8reps) followed by one triceps excercise (4 sets of 8 reps) and then back to your second chest excercise (4 sets of 8 reps) another tricep excercise and so on until you did your full 4 chest excercises and 4 tricep excercises. The idea is thus that after one chest excercise you give the chest a short break while doing the other muscle group and by the time you start again with your second chest excercise the chest should have recovered suffuciently for the next 4 sets of 8 reps ..and so on.
      Hope this explains it?
      Yes I do mean 4 sets of the same excercise. The bench is is a mass builder to the chest and especially with the incline bench it will fire up a slow to respond chest. Believe me it works…but only when you really go heavy. As I said, you can later-on start doing all fancy moves to shape the chest even further, but for now, you just want to add full round mass to the whole chest muscle – top to bottom.
      Rest is relative for everyone. I train with a partner so while he does his set I rest and spot him. But 2-3 minutes should suffice.
      Wish you success. Gert

  5. Hi Gert,

    Great read. Can this approach be followed by beginners (failing at 6-8 reps). I am a beginner and I was recommended to fail around 12-15 reps

    1. Adrian,
      To help you get used to the training and moves, 12-15 reps is fine.
      But as soon as you want to built some muscle you will have to drop it to the 6-8 reps range with failure on the 6-8th rep. That is muscle growth territory. Minimal growth will occur in the 12-15 rep range.
      Some newbies find it hard to train to soon to the point of muscle failure. But failure is what spurs muscle growth.
      If you feel ready for the 6-8 rep cycle…start…the sooner the better.
      Wish u MUCH succes. Gert

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